Consider this a sign of growth. Whereas once the Seattle Sounders leaned on their NFL brethren, the Seattle Seahawks, for operational expertise, the team is now ready to pave its own way. On Apr. 30, one of Major League Soccer’s most successful teams will separate from its partners, severing the tie that helped it become the league’s most profitable and highest-drawing club.
The Sounders announced the decision Thursday afternoon Pacific time, with majority owner Joe Roth hinting the time had come for his franchise to spread its wings.
“This is a sensible business decision for our franchise,” Roth said in the team’s statement. “Our vision is to grow our business to unprecedented levels both domestically and abroad. This move will position us to achieve that goal.”
To this point, the Sounders have used their link with the Seahawks for business and organizational support, a relationship that was especially helpful in accelerating the franchise’s growth after it joined Major League Soccer in 2007 (beginning play in 2009). After the separation, however, the Sounders will set up new, independent business offices from Paul Allen’s Vulcan Sports & Entertainment.
The team is still staying at CenturyLink Field and has no intention of moving. And with Allen still owning 25 percent of the club, there will still be a natural connection between CenturyLink’s co-tenants. Yet five years into a trajectory that will see the Sounders become the league’s must successful business operation (if it’s not there already), the Sounders are ready to fly on their own.
“This move further demonstrates our commitment to our passionate fan base and our staff,” owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer said in today’s statement. “We’re excited to … continue to grow our brand under the banner of Sounders 2.0.”
That description — moving to 2.0 — hints at the significance of this move. Whereas the Sounders are currently part of a set of investments under the Vulcan, Inc. umbrella, the team now set to strike out on their own.
Later in the day, Hanauer described the move as taking off training wheels. Based on Roth’s comments, the team obviously has high hopes. If in any way Vulcan’s management had begun holding Seattle back, it will be scary so see what an unrestrained Sounders are capable of accomplishing.